20 December 2007

News c. 100,000 BC - AD 2007

Journalists are today handing in their rumpled Gannex macintoshes, removing the press cards from their battered trilbies and sloping off to the nearest pub for eleven or twelve "quick ones" (plus chasers) in memory of News, which has succumbed to a tidal wave of gossip, sports stories and infotainment after a long illness.

It was way back in about 100,000BC that Ug the Hack became the first person to realise that it might just be a good idea to actually tell his fellow cave dwellers about the stampeding mammoths heading their way, rather than just watching the ensuing carnage. Not only did his decision to beat out his message on the nearest available drum save his fellow Homo sapiens from a fate worse than death, it also resulted in the birth of News ... as well as leading to Ug being sacked by his boss, Ug the Editor, who pointed out that a bunch of cave men and women being trampled to death by mastodons would have made a much better cave-painting for the Paleolithic Gazette.

Undeterred by Ug's fate, foolhardy messengers continued to bring the News to all and sundry. Given that the News for the next several millennia consisted chiefly of stories about drought, pestilence, invading armies, stampeding beasts and crop failure, it is perhaps unsurprising that News was not universally popular and its bearers soon found themselves occupying a position in the people's affections slightly below venereal disease and just to the left of estate agents. Indeed, when Pheidippides dropped dead after running the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians he was regarded by most Greeks as having done the world a favour.

By the 15th Century, after having brought details of everything from the collapse of the Roman Empire, through the disastrous Crusades all the way to the arrival of the Black Death, News was so unpopular that its bearers hardly dared show their faces in public. Indeed, so many messengers were being shot for bringing bad News that by 1402 the Guild of Heralds could only muster three members, all of whom were mad. Just as things looked their darkest for News, however, a new dawn broke with the arrival of Johann Gutenberg and his miraculous printing press. Now it was possible for the News to be cheaply and easily transferred to paper - allowing messengers to deliver it and then run away very quickly before anyone could read it. Soon News was transformed from a pariah into the latest fashion, with everyone eager to grab hold of the latest items hot off the press.

The popularity of News became so great that it soon found itself granted whole newspapers all to itself, filled cover to cover with all the latest information from near and far (or, at least, as far as a carrier pigeon could travel without being shot and converted into carrier pie). By the 18th Century News was being printed out and stuck up on every stationary surface (a phenomenon which would lead to the unfortunate incident in which several acres of freesheets were pasted to the side of George IV one morning after he fell asleep outside the Brighton pavilion) and thousands of people were engaged in its acquisition and distribution.

As mass communication improved, News came to more and more people, and more and more people came to News. By the early twenty-first century, News appeared almost inescapable - available via television, radio, internet and mobile phones, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Yet all was not as it seemed. While the outlets for News were ever greater in number, News itself began to seem pale and worn out.

Pundits began to speculate - usually at length, across all 24-hour news channels and on the basis of absolutely no real information - that News was suffering from an eating disorder. Indeed many believed that, overstressed by the need to say something at all times, News had taken to binging on low-quality gossip about troubled minor celebrities, scandals involving overpaid soccer stars and underclothed women and entertainment "stories" merely repeating the exact event witnessed on the previous night's reality TV, plus unfounded scare stories based on inaccurately reported statistics and tendentious, lying and ill-researched rants along the lines of "Christianity banned to appease Muslims", "Measles jabs give kids AIDS" and "Diana assassinated by house prices". The classic five Ws of journalism "Who?", "What?", "Where?", "When?" and "Why?" found themselves transformed into "What?", "When?", "With how many footballers?", "Will you take your kit off for the photo?" and "Which wankers will read this rubbish?" and even genuinely news-based News became a shadow of its former self, with political reporting reduced to tales of tribal infighting and interpersonal conflict rather than policy, science news reduced to a few whizz-bang graphics or John Humphrys harrumphing about how gravity was all different in his day, and arts news reduced to half-hour specials on the premiere of the latest Adam Sandler movie.

As a result of this, it came as a surprise to no-one when News's body was discovered in the early hours of this morning, the cause of death apparently a heart attack induced by the strain of trying to come up with a story involving Amy Winehouse having a drug-fuelled affair with Victoria Beckham and the winner of the X-Factor whilst trying to cover up the death of Madeleine McCann with the aid of "canoe man" John Darwin.

News will be buried at St Trevor's Church of the Big Ben Bongs. The Reverend Fiona Bruce will arch one eyebrow à la Dan Dare before reading an overbrief summary of News's life, shortened in order to fit in the story about the skateboarding duck. The congregation will sing Hymn No 123, Mailman Bring Me No More News.

1 Comment:

Colin Campbell said...

This hits the nail on the head. News is an embarrassment. Here in Adelaide, where Newscorp is headquartered and where he started his business career, we are graced with a tabloid rag as the only newspaper in town. One of the television channel broadcasts the nightly news from Melbourne claiming that they are better because they are longer.